Having children is notoriously expensive. The BBC reports that Liverpool Victoria Insurers calculate the cost of raising a child (0-21) as high as £222,000! Many people won’t EARN £222,000 in 21 years, let alone spend that on their child. The government’s Money Advice Service asks, “Did you know that a baby could cost as much as £7200 or as little as £1600 in their first year?” and that says it all. You can choose! Here are some money saving tips from my experience of the first few months of a baby’s life. I am sure there are many more tips and tricks I have yet to learn!
Don’t be proud! I was lucky that my sister had her baby a few months before mine, so I could put my baby in a LOT of my nephew’s clothes – see below. I bet that you know someone who would happily give you or sell very cheaply their little one’s old things. I would recommend buying a couple of cute outfits yourself each stage, then leave the rest to second-hand stuff and bargain supermarket multipacks. No-one will know what your baby wears to bed! You might as well buy a bundle of sleepsuits from a local Facebook group for £2 as all your baby is doing is sleeping in them. There’s no point having brand new outfits for bedtime and fashionable vests under their clothes. The first few months, babies cover themselves in sick and poo. Then they cover themselves in food. Then it’s soil, sand and mystery substances. Plus they grow ridiculously quickly; they only wear their clothes a handful of times. We own beautiful babygrows and outfits that our son has worn literally once before growing out of.
I suppose this one depends on your personality – if you’re very image conscious and spend a lot on your own clothing, you’ll probably be horrified by the idea of putting your little one in second-hand clothes. But the rest of us can save some money!
Now, wish lists might sound a bit hardhearted, but as a present buyer I prefer to purchase something that is actually needed rather than something they already have or don’t need. Plus, people generally LOVE buying presents for babies – the clothes are adorable, the blankets are soft and snuggly, and the cuddly toys are irresistible.
In hindsight, I would make more use of an online wish list of baby stuff. I’m a fan of the amazon post-it note feature, where you can add a generic item you’d like, without specifying the exact brand or type. For example, you can list “bouncer chair” rather than “Fisher Price Woodsy Friends Bouncer, £37.99 from Mothercare”. This allows the giver some fun choosing the gift, while making sure you get something you need. Make sure to put a range of differently priced items so there is something for everyone. Do include a couple of big buys so that friends can club together or family can splurge.
Be tactical about the time of year too; my son was born in September so it’s a long time between Christmas and his first birthday. For this reason, when people asked about Christmas present ideas I suggested some items that were too advanced for him but he would develop into before his first birthday. For example, an activity table to stand at and a walker toy were way beyond for him in December, at three months, but he loves them both now and they might be getting too babyish by his first birthday. In more hindsight, I would ask for larger sized clothing when people offered – otherwise baby is bought gorgeous outfits in his current size and five minutes later he’s too big for them. Our boy is a chunky monkey (impressive thighs!) so has rarely been in age-appropriate sized clothing.
Don’t misunderstand me – we have received beautiful, generous and unexpected gifts that have been much appreciated and hugely useful. Many will be extremely well-worn and treasured for years. However, if we were on a stricter budget then making more efficient use of a wish list would be one way to maximise the spending power of generous friends and family.
I only recently found out that generic versions of the well-known brands of liquid paracetamol and iburofen exist! That is to say, brand names such as Calpol (for example) are much more expensive than the pharmacy’s own liquid infant paracetamol but do exactly the same thing. A quick comparison on a well-known British pharmacy website shows their own make is 20% cheaper than the most famous paracetamol brand.
Let’s Talk Poo
There are a couple of options regarding nappies. If I could travel back in time, I would go down the reusable nappy route. Sounds gross I know, but I really regret my son’s crappy contribution to landfill and hate seeing plastic wrapped in plastic wrapped in plastic waiting for the binmen. Bin people. Waste management technicians. Whatever.
Reusable nappies involve a chunkier initial investment in a set of washable cloth nappies, but are cheaper long-term. There is, of course, the resulting increase in laundry but I understand this is still a more economical and ecological option.
If you have chosen disposable nappies, then I highly recommend considering own brands instead of the more expensive family names. Supermarket nappies are often highly rated in reviews and sometimes beat more familiar brand names in testing. If you’re unsure or lack confidence in bargain nappies, then maybe use a household name nappy for the longer night shift and stick to cheapo nappies during the day when you’re changing baby more often.
I’ve written here about the toys and other baby things that we’ve loved and that have been super useful. However, to balance things I’ve also written here about how little babies really need to keep them amused! Don’t go mad buying actual toys – partly because you will receive many as gifts, but also because babies are easily amused with paper, boxes and other household items. Apart from a rattle, teether and something to cuddle, there isn’t much that’s truly essential. What I’m saying is, let baby loose on a couple of wooden spoons and some tupperware and saucepans before splashing out on a drumkit…
I feel quite strongly that you do NOT need to join expensive baby groups to ensure your baby’s development and socialisation in the early months. To begin with, your face, voice and out-of-tune singing is perfect for baby. Stopping to chat in the mirror, singing a nursery rhyme, and talking about your shopping as you go round the supermarket is completely sufficient for a young baby’s communication and stimulation.
As baby gets a few months older, it’s a good idea to take him to a group and see if he enjoys it as he’ll be more aware of other people. However, before splurging on an expensive class, do check out your local group such as those held in churches as they are often only £1 contribution and may include a snack. There will be toys that are new to baby for him to explore, and lots of new faces to see and sounds to hear, which is all baby needs.
The same goes for swimming lessons; it’s great for baby to experience the swimming pool, but I really don’t think that expensive lessons are necessary. Personally, I took our boy by myself to a hotel swimming pool his first time, as I felt overwhelmed by the thought of taking him to a big, noisy public pool. So it was for my benefit rather than his! The pool was empty, so we could take our time and I wasn’t worried about him kicking off. We had a lovely splash around and as an added bonus the changing rooms were ours alone!
I am probably lucky that several friends and family have had babies around the same time as me, so just meeting up with them allows both me and baby to socialise and varies our routine. If you have zero baby/mummy friends then perhaps you would want to join a baby and toddler group sooner than I felt the need.
Taking your little one to a class can be for your benefit as well as his – it’s a change in the monotony and an opportunity to make mummy friends if that’s what you’re after. There is nothing wrong with that at all! And all of this isn’t to say the more expensive groups aren’t great. But if you’re looking to save money, please don’t feel pressurised to join them or commit to a long course at least.
Just a quick reminder that baby’s prescriptions are free, and yours are too for the first year. Make the most of this by booking a checkup at the dentist’s.
Don’t forget to register for child benefit; it comes to £80 a month (for your eldest child) which at least covers nappies and formula or a few new outfits.
Buying and Selling
Do join local Facebook groups for buying and selling used baby things. As well as the clothes bundles I mentioned above, you’ll find some of the larger toys that could set you back a lot when bought brand new. I mention some useful baby things here, many of which could be found second-hand if you kept your eyes peeled or asked around.
Then when your baby has outgrown them, get back online and sell them on! This is particularly true of plastic toys, as they won’t show much in the way of wear and tear.
If you don’t like the idea of buying second-hand from strangers, try asking around at mum’s groups or among your mummy friends. You’ll be surprised how many have an expensive sling or activity centre collecting dust in their garage that they’d love to get rid of for a small contribution or even for free!
These are only a few ideas for saving some money, and only based on my own opinion and experience. Have you got any money-saving tips or tricks for new or expectant parents? As the mum of a baby under one, are there any tips for saving money that I need to know for the coming years?